I went out for drinks one evening at a bar in San Francisco which was pitching a free “mobile crafting workshop” — and it was awesome. There was fabric, stuffing, sewing materials and space-themed cutouts and tons of grown adults acting like 8 year olds in arts & crafts.
When I met the woman behind it all, Amelia Strader, and heard her story, I knew she would make for an awesome kick ass interview. She operates Gogo Craft, a mobile crafting workshop/business, as her main occupation and puts on events for venues, parties and other types of gatherings. She was a wonderful crafting teacher and I love how she’s built this business.
Let’s dig in!
My favorite memory is of my early attempts at trying to make my own designs. I was about 10 years old and really into tap dancing, so I was eager to make some sparkly dance costumes. I never wanted to buy patterns, I wanted to make my own. So I would have my younger sister lie down and I would draw an outline of her on my fabric, and cut it out in the shape of a skirt or top and sew it together. Of course my poor sister had to wear the crazy outfits I made so my parents could show them off to friends and family.
The coolest part was seeing a garment that I had helped to develop either for sale in a store or being worn by a stranger on the street. I learned so many valuable things working in the garment industry that I use in my own business everyday. As a technical designer I had to alter patterns and create instructions that factories would then use in order to make the garments. So I honed my skills as a pattern maker and learned how to describe making a garment in easy to follow words and images. I use this all the time to create the patterns and tutorials that go along with each of my GoGo Craft workshops.
It all started in 2008, when I got laid off from my job in the garment industry. Of course it was a bummer, but I was actually relieved. The job I had wasn’t very creative, and I wasn’t sure it was the right career path for me — a really difficult and scary thing to admit to myself. At first, unsure of what else I wanted to do, I started teaching some knitting classes, in order to make a little extra cash while looking for another job.
At the same time a few of my sewing projects were featured at a monthly craft workshop that I helped to create and organize, called Craft Bar with Etsy Labs, at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in SF. By doing the knitting classes and organizing these workshops I remembered how much I really loved creating and teaching. As I was coming to this realization, I was offered a tech design job at Old Navy with a good salary and benefits, but accepting the position would have meant I would not be able to teach anymore. So in 2010 I decided to throw caution to the wind. I turned the job down and started GoGo Craft, a mobile craft workshop in the Bay Area.
Crafting at the King Kong Bar with Winnie Kao
I can’t say that I have a typical gig. The cool thing about GoGo Craft gigs is that they have taken me to all different kinds of events and spaces around the Bay Area. I’ve taught workshops at Treasure Island Music Festival and at the California Academy of Sciences. My event locations have also included birthday parties, street fairs, holiday fairs, retail spaces, and libraries. GoGo Craft provides the project, supplies, and expert instructor, the customer provides the space.
Favorite part of the biz is that I’m getting paid to do something that I love. I still can’t get over how cool it is that I get paid to teach people how to make SpaceCraft plushies at a bar or teach a group of kids how to make superhero masks. The hardest part is dividing my time between my job working at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, running GoGo Craft solo, and maintaining my personal life . I’ve learned to be very organized in order to balance all three, but there are crazy weeks that I just have to bite the bullet and put my nose to the grindstone.
My favorite piece of advice to share with beginning crafters is that you don’t need expensive materials and tools to make something cool. Some of my favorite projects are upcycling (re-using) ordinary household items like paper towel rolls, old magazines, cardboard boxes, and old sweaters. I just made a small puppet stage from a cereal box, markers, scissors, and a glue stick. Using ordinary materials doesn’t put a big dent in your wallet and is much less intimidating to beginning crafters.